Alalá de Maía

Alalá de Maía

alvarodelascasasThe cocks call in the day.
Wake up, my love, and go.
How can I leave, my love?
How can I leave you and go?

You are the budding bloom,
The one my heart desires.
You are the whitest star
That falls down from the sky.

Here you have it- my heart-
Shut up well with a key.
I open it now for you
For you alone fit there.

I send to you my heart
With the key to open it.
I have no more to give
And you no more to ask.

If it rains let it rain,
Drizzle, let it drizzle.
For all it rains and rains
I won’t ever leave you.

Farewell, farewell, my love,
My kerchief’s soaked with tears.
I never thought that love
Would give such troubles to me

This poem is called an Alalá and comes from the Cancioneiro Popular Galego (Santiago: Frouma, 2005).  The Alalá is an old-style folk song from the mountains in A Coruña province, said originally to be dependent on onamatopoeia for its poetic effect.

These are popular songs and have a folk lilt to them.  The original has an irregular four foot line and, putting it into English, I had to struggle with a temptation to put more words in to imitate that sound.  In the end I decided against this because each verse comes in a little packet that almost stands alone as a thought capsule and it seemed to me that concision should win out: I am very much against putting in unnecessary words to bulk out a line.  Since an Alalá is a folk song the verses should be consistent in tones and open to being set to music.

I am interested in the correspondences with the poetry of Rosalía de Castro: the themes of love and parting; the pessimistic endings; the musicality of the language.  However, whereas Rosalía takes these sources and builds her poems in a succession of images that come to a devastating finale, the folk poems have an almost casual back-and-forth argument style.  The fact that they so often end on a down beat almost seems an accident.  They belong to the troubadour tradition.  The stanzas are almost in competition with one another to encapsulate a beautiful thought.  They are easily memorised and stand alone well.  They could almost be improvised.

alvar02Consider this pair of verses from Gaitada de Soutelo:

I don’t know what you gave me
But I can’t forget you now:
All day you are in my thoughts
And all night I dream of you.

Now that I’m going to leave
The stones themselves will weep.
Stones, cry for me through the night
As I’m going in the morning.
Notice how the two verses are almost antithetical, as if there were two voices: attraction/repulsion, here/there, come/go, love/parting.  The dualities are counterpoised as essential components of the vision of life in the Cancioneiro.  You might even say that they go to make up a folk philosophy, a country pessimism which can as easily say “every cloud has a silver lining” as “there’s nowt good but bad doesn’t come of it”.  The love is also expressed as a love of place so that the Gaitada finishes on  its eleventh stanza with these famous lines, that were again quarried by Rosalía:

Farewell fountains, farewell rivers
Farewell rivers, farewell fountains
I don’t know if I’m leaving or dying
Farewell, Soutelo de Montes.

adiosrios

About Jason Preater

Working on Projects
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